FUKUOKA – Two more people died and at least 20 were reported missing Sunday in several mudslides in Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Nagasaki prefectures as heavy rains continued to hit the Kyushu region, Kumamoto Prefectural Police said.
According to police, the bodies of two women were found in a landslide that swept away some 10 houses in the Hogawauchi district of Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture. The victims were later identified as Eiko Yoshigai, 64, and her daughter-in-law Naoko, 36. Thirteen people also went missing in the area.
Minamata officials said that Yoshihiko Fukuda, 42, and three members of his family went missing in a mudslide in the city’s Fukagawa district.
A total of seven people were injured and taken to hospitals in both Hogawauchi and Fukagawa.
As police rushed to gather information, firefighters continued to rescue people in the city, located near Kagoshima Prefecture.
The Minamata Municipal Office has set up a disaster command center and issued an evacuation advisory for the entire city.
It has also asked the Kumamoto Prefectural Government to dispatch Self-Defense Forces rescue teams.
Minamata recorded as much as 91 mm of rainfall between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday.
Total rainfall in the city came to 251 mm from 5 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday.
The rain subsided after 8 a.m., but weather agency officials said heavy downpours of up to 50 mm, accompanied by thunder, were recorded around noon in northern Kyushu. There is still danger of more mudslides and river flooding, the officials added.
The city is making regular announcements over the public address system urging the Minamata’s 31,000 residents to evacuate. Many have people gathered in public facilities.
Uprooted trees now lie strewn along flooded streets, and the railing of a bridge has been swept away in the upper Minamata River, where muddy waters are overflowing.
“I hope that the damage doesn’t spread any farther,” said Keiji Tanaka, 47, a worker at the municipal sports center, which is being used as an evacuation center.
Meanwhile in Kagoshima Prefecture, two people have been reported missing, while a woman was swept away in a flash flood in Nagasaki Prefecture, local police said.
The rain front remained over southwestern and western Japan — stretching from Fukuoka to Nagoya — from Friday night to Sunday morning, causing record rainfall in northern Kyushu.
On Saturday, the rain flooded 195 houses in Fukuoka Prefecture as well as 13 houses in Saga Prefecture, and caused landslides in 26 locations in Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Oita prefectures, police said.
At least 84 houses have been flooded in Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, they said.
In Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, a 79-year-old man was found dead shortly before 1 p.m. near a house destroyed in a mudslide early Saturday, the police said.
Two other people in the cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu were slightly injured by pieces of broken glass, they said.
Due to the downpours, JR Kyushu had canceled 27 limited express trains and 13 regular trains on the Kagoshima Line as of Sunday noon, while service on some other local lines was temporarily disrupted.
Traffic on the Kyushu Expressway was partially suspended in Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures.